Joaquin Phoenix‘s didn’t just finally snare his first Oscar win for his disturbing portrait of deranged wannabe stand-up comic Arthur Fleck who transforms into Batman’s arch nemesis in “Joker.” He also made history along with another talent who he duly credited in his speech after his Best Actor win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards: “I’m standing here on the shoulders of my favorite actor, Heath Ledger.”
Ledger, who won a supporting Academy Award posthumously for his own take on the Clown Prince of Crime in 2008’s Batman sequel, “The Dark Knight,” will now be forever tied to Phoenix since it is only the second time that two actors have won for playing the same character. The only other example of two performers putting their personal stamps on the same character is when Marlon Brando in the original “The Godfather” in 1972 and Robert De Niro in “The Godfather Part II” in 1974 won for playing older and younger versions of Don Vito Corleone. Brando took the lead prize while De Niro earned a supporting honor. That’s a true win-win.
Former child star Phoenix has been nominated for an Oscar three times previously, as a supporting actor in the 2000 historical epic “Gladiator” and for lead actor in both the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line” and as alcoholic war vet who has ties to a cult in 2012’s “The Master.” But this physically demanding comic-book role for which he lost over 50 pounds finally did the trick.
Several other actors on TV and in movies have played the Joker previously, including Jack Nicholson in 1989’s “Batman” and Jared Leto in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” But none of the others came close to an Oscar.
Many more performers, however, have also been nominated for the same part in the past, sometimes in the same movie such as Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart,who lost as lead and supporting candidates for their performances as the young and old Rose DeWitt in 1997’s “Titanic.” But such repeated characters usually result in just one win at most.
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